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Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division

Escape Before Sale

People who were going to be sold or had just been sold sometimes ran away to avoid being separated from their loved ones or from going to the dreaded Deep South. In this letter dated January 17, 1817, General Wilkenson, a New Orleans slave dealer wrote from Huntington Town, Calvert County, Maryland, to complain to Henry Thompson, a merchant in Baltimore that several slaves he had just purchased had run away:

"Of twenty-five Negroes for which I had formed fair Contracts of this County, every one have either absconded or been refused by their masters, under various pretexts, to be delivered, & my engagement . . . forbids the necessary delay for prosecuting my claims or apprehending the fugitives."

He submitted a draft note, or promise of payment, "through the hands of my Brother Genl. Jos. Wilkenson," on a certain B. Morgan for $2,500, "should my brother [who was apparently trying to round up fugitives] forward to the jail of Baltimore any slaves for me."  Wilkinson asked Thompson to "be so good as to have them [the slaves] shipped to my address at New Orleans & draw on me for the charges."

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